Originally posted September 2009

Edward W. Said, who passed away at the age of 67 on September 25, 2003, was a towering “public intellectual” — a man of extraordinary erudition, a path-breaking scholar, and a passionate activist.

Said was a man of many interests, talents, and accomplishments — pianist, opera critic, newspaper columnist, popular essayist, television celebrity, and public lecturer. From 1963 until his death, he was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Said, the distinguished man of letters, also was deeply immersed in the politics of Palestine. Born in Jerusalem in 1935, he moved with his family to Cairo following the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli War, and later to the United States. He subsequently emerged as one of the best known advocates of the Palestinian cause in the United States. From 1977 until 1991, he served as an independent member of the Palestinian National Council. He later became one of the most trenchant critics of the Oslo peace process and of US policy in the Middle East.

This special edition of MEI Viewpoints recalls and reconsiders Edward Said’s seminal work, Orientalism (1978) — the critique it proffered, the controversy it aroused, and the influence it has had.

MEI is grateful to Dr. Daniel Varisco of Hofstra University for his inspiration, assistance, and contribution to this collection of essays.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.